Paris Day 5: Paris Street, Rainy Day
We woke up this morning intent on watching the sun rise over the Seine, but that didn’t really happen. Our goal was to use the Vileb bike rental system to cycle to Pont des Arts, but unfortunately the morning dawned cold and rainy, so there was no sunset to be had. We did at least enjoy a bike ride, although it was equally as terrifying as it was thrilling. While Paris is certainly a bike-friendly city, locals must be much more comfortable riding in the street mere inches from being sucked under a bus. We coasted down main roads with bike lanes and sprinted up side streets between moving vehicles, no destination in mind just trying to stay upright. Thought we tried to observe the rules of the road, we did get yelled at by a bus driver. We just think he was complimenting us on our exemplary cycling skills.
After dropping our bikes off and attempting to lower our heart rates, we took the metro over to our favorite cafe for chai lattes, then braved the cold drizzle to return to our hotel for a hard-earned nap. Well, it wasn't a nap so much as a four hour hibernation.
As a tourist destination, Paris has numerous tours and I've heard that a chocolate tour would be worth the money. Unfortunately, it was still a bit out of my budget, so instead I researched some of the best and most famous chocolatiers and pastry makers here to put together my own tour. Today was supposed to be our chocolate tour day, and we set out with good intentions, but it as we've daily munched on sweets as it is, this was more a continuation of our confectionery journey. Our first stop was Du Pain et des Idees, known for its various breads and pastries. And our chocolate pistachio snails verified the boulangerie's reputation!
We decided to make a pit stop for some real food and walked back towards a gyro place near Notre Dame, but on the way happened upon a large protest - against new labor laws from what we could tell. Though it was peaceful for the moment, we were still a bit disconcerted so we hurried off as fast as we could and took solace in another dessert shop, drawn in by the enormous multicolored meringues. I bought a praline one the size of my skull and bit into expecting it to be hollow, only to find that I was holding a solid chunk of sugar! I've yet to finish it; it was delicious but oh so rich.
After all of this sugar, we longed for a good walk to burn it off, and in doing so found our way to the Grand Mosque. Of all our architectural explorations, this one made us the most apprehensive, simply because we did not want to appear irreverent. We could not, of course, enter into the prayer room, but ambled past a few times taking in the beautiful rhythm of their prayers and chants. It was interesting to compare the architecture of the mosque with that of the Christian chapels we've visited: what Christian builders were able to achieve in sheer enormity of scale, Islamic builders accomplished through intricate detail. The allusions to nature within the mosque’s mosaic walls mirrored that of the beautiful gardens outside, no doubt even more beautiful with water flowing through them.
We did not stay at the mosque as long as we did at Sainte-Chappelle as we felt somewhat out of place in the sacred space, so we walked the few steps over to the Natural History Museum and strolled through the greenery talking of the differences between Catholicism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam and the history and art history therein, enjoying a lively discussing amidst an array of foliage.
By this point, our hunger muscles began to flex, so we let our noses guide us once more toward the gyro shop. We never did make it there. I picked out a beautiful new scarf as my souvenir of choice and Erin got a couple charms for a necklace in remembrance of our fantastic adventure. I realized we were nearing another one of the chocolate places on our tour list so we detoured that way and ran into yet another one on the list. Patrick Rogers’ chocolate sculptures really did live up to their impressive reputation (only in sight for us as we didn't taste anything.) Eventually we made it to Odette, a quaint French noir-esque cafe with the tones of an accordion wafting from upstairs. I enjoyed a jasmine tea, Erin an espresso and both of us small puffed pastries as we swayed to the quintessential French cafe melody.
As it was nearing sunset, we abandoned our mission for gyros and instead walked through a small chapel before heading to a bridge for a photo op.
We finally made it back to the cafe near our hotel that we ate in our first night and I sampled some of my favorites of French cuisine: rabbit terrine, escargot, and a delicious cheese plate all accompanied by a fine glass of Chablis. All told, we did manage to eat our way through the city even if very little of it was actually chocolate.